“It looks like the government itself is oppressing the people.” This was how Davao City Mayor Rodrigo ‘Rody’ Duterte started his narration about how and why he finally decided to run for presidency.
The 70-year-old mayor, the fourth and last candidate featured in GoNegosyo Talks’ Meet the Presidentiables Series held early this month, said most of the problems that the country is currently facing are rooted on law and order, drugs, and criminality.
That is why he has always been vocal about his intention to primarily focus on those if he would be given the chance to become the nation’s top leader.
But critics, even a senior economist tapped to advise Duterte said for a presidential candidate, he lacks internalization of economic issues, Rappler wrote on February 13. Ernesto “Ernie” Pernia, a lead economist at the Asian Development Bank said in the report that what makes Duterte a candidate and willing to risk on him is that he is results-oriented and acts fast.
Such lack of internalization on economic issues also was evident in the GoNegosyo forum, and other business forum the candidate had already attended to. However, he gave bits and pieces on what he said will do to improve the country’s economy.
If elected, Duterte said his priority sectors for budget allocation will be agriculture, education, and health.
He is particularly interested in agriculture as he aims to make the Philippines not just self-producing when it comes to rice production but also an exporter, just like how it did in the 1960s to 1970s.
A possible Duterte presidency, he said, will lead to the creation of “small economies everywhere,” which means that entrepreneurship will be further promoted in the countryside.
“I will assign DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) to help fund MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises),” he said. Part of his plans is to shake up the department by appointing young entrepreneurs who are really willing to serve to take major positions within it.
Duterte said that funding MSMEs should not just involve providing them capital. “Before you release money to people, they must first be educated to have skills to make it grow through businesses,” he said. This is where the role of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and other skills development organizations will get in.
Although he said he will not stop Filipinos from deciding to work abroad, Duterte wants to make sure that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who will decide to come home for good will find the country as an ideal place where they can be their “own bosses.”
Tax, traffic, China, Mindanao
Duterte said he is also supporting calls to implement tax reforms in the country.
Although he said his advisers tell him not to commit anything about taxation at the moment, as the current conditions may be different in the future, Duterte still said that he is looking at making those earning P20,000 ($420.70) and lower in monthly income be exempted from paying income taxes.
About the conflict with China over territorial claims to the Spratly Islands, Duterte thinks that the government should also consider getting into negotiations with Beijing for possible joint exploration and other projects in the disputed islands.
He said doing so would not only ease the tension but also give the country economic benefits. But in case the status quo remains in two to three years, Duterte said, “I’ll talk to China and affirm our territorial margins.”
About the perennial traffic woes, which he blames for robust car sales—and the Aquino administration keeps harping about as a sign of economic growth, Duterte said, “There is no solution to EDSA. Just don’t go there.”
However, he said the government must invest in more trains to give the public easier and more comfortable mode of transportation going to and from work each day.
For the Mindanao problem, Duterte said he is pro-federalism in the region. Duterte said he knew since the day it was proposed that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), will not push through. “There has to be historical correction in Mindanao,” he said. BBL, when passed, would establish a proposed new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, replacing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
In his personal assessment, Duterte gave the government a failing mark when it comes to controlling crimes related to illegal drugs. “Unfortunately, every crime…is connected with drugs,” he said.
For Duterte, it would not be that difficult to do that, since he repeatedly said, he has already done it in Davao City. Thus, if he would be elected president, Duterte guarantees that he can put an end not only to crime but also to corruption in three to six months.
As for those who worry that such an iron fist could possibly lead to another dictatorship, Duterte said that his potential government will not suppress peoples’ freedom. He said he will not consider dictatorship because “dictators don’t die happily.”
This led him to answer questions about his alleged support for the ‘leftist’ groups. “I am not a Communist. I don’t agree with armed struggle,” Duterte said. In various media interviews, he has always been open about plans to appoint some key personalities from the leftist movement into some government posts if he will be the next president. This he says is part of his strategy to unite the nation and put an end to decades of misunderstandings between the government and the leftists.
Duterte’s political career highlight was when late President Corazon Aquino appointed him as the officer-in-charge in Davao City in 1986, following the People Power Revolution. In 1988, he was elected as city mayor and has since held the position for a total of 22 years or through seven terms. In between those years, he also served as congressman and vice mayor to his daughter Sarah.
Unlike most of the presidential candidates for the 2016 elections, Duterte was first resistant to calls from his supporters for him to give the presidency a shot.
But in November 21, 2015, days after the official deadline of filing of candidacy for national posts, he surprised everyone with his announcement to run for the highest public position in the country.
He was declared a replacement to a candidate from his political party who later withdrew his bid. A few days before the event, disqualification cases against him were finally junked by the Commission on Elections.
And so if he is elected, and in response to reports that he is ailing, Duterte said he remains healthy after overcoming some health issues in the past. “But if my health fails and I have just four to five years left…that is why you should choose the right Vice President!” – James Humarang
Entrepreneur Philippines profiles the leading presidential, vice presidential, and senatorial candidates in the upcoming May 9, 2016 elections. We aim to help voters know these candidates through their platforms focusing on the economy, entrepreneurship, tax reform.